I have the best group that someone could do a road trip with! We are three girls and three guys who met through the Los Angeles Backpacking meetup group right at its beginnings 12 years ago. We got along really well and have become great friends since. We kept getting closer through the years and getting together frequently either for mountain trips or city activities. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we consider ourselves very fortunate to have found each other. We have created special bonds that will hopefully last a life time. We created our own little family in LA!
But as it happens with many families, its members eventually move away to different places to grow in their careers, relationships, or seek other experiences. Currently four in the group live in different cities in the US and two of us live in Southern California but about 30 miles away from each other; which feels like very far away when you consider the crazy LA traffic.
During Alan & Erika’s wedding on October 2017 (Alan was the first one to get married), all 6 of us got together again after years of not having been in the same place. We took the opportunity to make a pact that we would reunite somewhere in the world, once a year to spend quality time as a group, doing something that we all enjoy. We would begin with this new tradition in 2018. For our first trip we ran through some of ideas of what we could do and we agreed that the trip had to be in the mountains, naturally, since this is how it all started. We decided on a road trip from Seattle to Calgary with the highlight being a visit to Banff National Park in Alberta. A place some of us had always dreamed of seeing. The trip took place from August 11 to 20th, 2018.
We all met in Seattle at Eric’s house where we picked up our rented car, bought groceries, and did some site-seeing before getting on the road. Unfortunately Alan & Erika were not able to join us on the road trip but we still got together with them in Seattle for one dinner together.
Our road trip began in Seattle where we took Highway 5 which turns into Highway 99 once you cross into Canada. We had a fantastic time making stops along the way in Bellingham, Surrey and lastly Vancouver. The idea was to stay only one night in Vancouver and continue on to Kamloops the following day where we would camp at Paul Lake Campground to split the drive into two days. Unfortunately due to 566 fires burning across the British Columbia province the air quality was extremely bad in Kamloops and camping outside was out of the question. The Canadian sky was covered by a blanket of smoke and haze during our entire trip to Calgary. The air quality in Vancouver was also bad but manageable for site-seeing during the day. Staying in Vancouver for two days ended up being a great decision as we got to see more of the city, take a walk around Stanley Park, hike in the Lynn Canyon Park, and explore Granville Island and its flavorful market.
Despite the bad air and hazy skies, driving through Canada was one of the best road tripping experiences of my life. The countryside was lush, green, full of pine trees and lakes making it relaxing and beautiful. We talked and played different games in the car, including “two truths and a lie”, my favorite car game. It is a great way to learn new things about people you thought you knew, ha ha! We always have a lot to share… seeing that we all do such different things for a living and come from very different backgrounds, the conversations are always long and interesting. We have a Vietnamese financial auditor, a Czech Scientist, a Chinese/Vietnamese Corporate Recruiter, an Iranian/Armenian Accountant/Sustainable Energy/Home Inspector and a Colombian Logistician/Travel Saleswoman. No matter how different we are, we always manage to have a great time together because we share an immense love for nature, the outdoors, and each other! Oh, I almost forgot… and for FOOD! We all love to eat and try different things. We had the amazing seafood at the Granville Island Public Market, we shopped in farmers markets along the road for fruit, nuts, jams. We tasted olive oils, maple butter, and maple syrup among other delicious treats. We tried different teas at the Banff Tea Co. We bought farm fresh beef and sausage to grill on the road and at our campsite. We ate the famous Canadian Poutine, went to an Irish Pub for whiskey tasting, and ate yummy Pho in Calgary (my favorite for my birthday). Lots and lots of good eating!
We reached our long awaited destination of Banff National Park on our third day. We spent three wonderful days under a hazy, smoky sky getting to know the area and enjoying some of the best hikes the park offers. The first day we hiked to Twin Lakes where we practically had the trail to ourselves. There were beautiful pine trees all around us, amazing views of all the mountains. We reached Arnica Lake and later the first of the Twin Lakes. The higher we went on the mountains, the cleaner the air felt.
The following day we did one of the most popular hikes in the entire park to the Tea Houses from Lake Louise. The parking gets so crowded in the mornings that we had to get up at 5:00am to ensure getting a spot before 7:00am. You first see the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise, quite an impressive and imposing giant hotel with restaurant, bars, shops and some fantastic views and access to the Lake.
The hike to the tea houses begins near the shores of Lake Louise, the trail climbs uphill for about 2 miles to Lake Agnes, where the elevation is 1312ft. From this first tea house you can continue to go up to the Little Beehive or Big Beehive; which connects you to the other tea house- The Plain of Six Glaciers. Unfortunately due to the dense clouds around the glaciers, we opted out of finishing the hike to see the Glaciers up close. The total loop hike ends up being around 8 miles and takes from 6 to 7 hours depending on how long you stay in the tea houses enjoying the tea and snacks.
On the way back down you get great views of the valley and the Chateau as a tiny point on the far side of the turquoise water Lake. Great photography opportunities everywhere. We kept wishing for bears but we had no luck. We celebrated with a yummy meal at the Alpine Social restaurant afterwards where we tried the fresh alpine trout, pork ribs and Canadian Chowder.
Although we did not have the chance to see this beautiful park in clear skies, Banff still amazed us with its beauty.
After three spectacular days in Banff hiking, shopping, and eating, we moved on to Calgary. We spent a couple of days at a great airbnb house and enjoyed a bit of site-seeing in the city. Calgary is a 1.2mi people city, the 4th largest in Canada. It has a great downtown area with lots of restaurants, the Calgary Tower and its famous rainbow crosswalk painted crosswalk among others.
We shared some wonderful moments, lots of great hiking, and conversations. We enjoyed Canada, such a lovely country and so abundant in natural beauty.
We hope to continue our new annual trip tradition. Until our trip in 2019!